The majority of South African’s enjoy meat on their plate and consider healthy food to be accessible but expensive.
Knorr recently released findings from its 2021 study on ‘Understanding the eating habits of the SA population.’ This study was compiled by market measurement firm, NielsenIQ. This report aims to understand the eating habits of South Africans and the challenges they face in adapting to a balanced plate. The report also provides a view on the improvement of South Africans’ accessibility, attitude, and behaviour towards foods.
Based on factors affecting consumer behavior since the start of the Covid- 19 pandemic. The study found that many South Africans are giving up on luxuries and focusing on buying necessities, with cost being the primary consideration. According to the Nielsen report, with the ongoing declines in household income, South African consumers’ current ability to spend is much lower (66%) than the global average (48%) as such, people consider healthy food to be accessible, but rather expensive.
The Plate of the Nation study is based on an in-depth questionnaire conducted amongst the South African population aged 16+ comprising males and females of all races within the LSM 1-10 in urban and rural regions in South Africa.
To understand the composition of the plate as well as understanding the attitudes towards food, what is consumed, and the link to health; the study found that:
- 90% of South Africans are meat-eaters, flexitarians (9%), vegetarians (3%), pescatarians (0.5%), and vegan (0.2%); and as such, this demonstrates an increase of meat-eaters in 2021 compared to 2020 (84%)
- South Africans eat an average of 2 meals per day and there is a general decline in breakfast consumption
- In South Africa, there is a decrease in meal occasions, 64% eat weekday breakfast, weekday lunch (71%), weekday dinner (83%), weekend breakfast (49%), weekend lunch (59%), and weekend dinner (66%)
- Breakfast remains the most carbohydrate (46%) heavy meal of the day with the least fruit and vegetables (4%), while lunch (48%) and dinner (68%) have meat as more of a focus.
- South Africa’s health status of non-communicable food-related diseases remains consistent from (14%) the previous year, 82% claims they are not suffering from any non-communicable diseases.
Knorr would like to help South Africa move towards a better food future by providing information regarding how and what the nation is eating and how it impacts South Africa’s eating journey.
“Changing the way in which we eat should happen in increments and steadily. When I began my journey to eat better, I abruptly became a vegan, which resulted in my body taking a knock. I know better now, and it’s about making small changes like adding more veg, like legumes to my plate, that help the body to adapt to eating better”. Concluded Mpoomy Ledwaba, Eativist, and Influencer.
The pandemic has had an impact on food choices
The decline in household income due to COVID-19’s effect on businesses has left many South African consumers financially worse off. As such, this has created a situation where people are eating whatever they can afford. This in turn means that children are more likely to eat what their parents eat. While other people consider healthy food to be accessible, it is also considered to be expensive, as more people still have a low understanding of what a balanced plate looks like.
With people trying to eat healthily and consuming essential foods, there is a decline in the consumption of luxuries and treats such as chocolate, sweet biscuits, nuts, and popcorn. Consumers are focusing on essential foods and opting to bulk buy to fit within their financial means. Consumers have deemed fresh food, staples, and dairy to be essential foods but eat meat on a daily basis. The findings show that 46% of South Africans eat meat every day, 2-3 times per week (46%), once a week (7%), and 2-3 times per month (1%). This has shown a decline in people substituting beans for meat.
The accessibility of healthy food
The study reports that information seeking from friends, family, and health professionals, has declined. Social media has become a key information source. The growth of e-commerce has been another factor contributing to the growth rate of unemployment. As brick and mortar businesses declined, due to retailers finding ways of doing business online, while still adhering to the lockdown regulations.
The tough economic atmosphere in South Africa has led South Africans to prioritise spending on food. 83% of South Africans believe food prices are increasing, they buy in bulk to combat the higher costs. Consumer confidence remains low due to 68% of respondents feeling their financial situation has worsened while 52% only have money for food, shelter, and the basics.
In efforts to help get South Africa to eat better and adapt to eating in a way that is good for them, some additional findings in the report included recommendations on the ideal plate composition:
- 33% vegetables
- 32% starch
- 15% dairy
- 12% meat
- 8% fats & oils
“We are far from the ideal plate, with small changes to our plates we can move towards reaching the ideal plate composition. Food businesses have a huge responsibility to educate consumers about eating better for a balanced plate.” says Vuyo Henda, Foods Southern Africa Marketing Director – Unilever South Africa
About the study: The Plate of the Nation study helps South Africa move towards a better food future. By providing formation regarding how and what the nation is eating, and how it impacts South Africa’s health. It aims to help create a source of information that stakeholders can tap into, to shape the health of the nation.
To download a copy of the Plate of the Nation Report, please visit: